Editorial: People's Initiative or Politician's Interest?

Editorial: People's Initiative or Politician's Interest?
Third District Representative Isidro Ungab

Last week, documents related to charter change circulated in Davao City, and Third District Representative Isidro Ungab claimed that his constituents were offered P2,000 to P3,000 for their signatures.

Some of the Dabawenyos interviewed by SunStar Davao shared their experiences of being approached to sign the petition without fully understanding its content. 

Some netizens also said they initially thought it was a belated "pahalipay" or Christmas gift by the Davao City government. However, they were surprised that it was a signature campaign for charter change (Cha-cha).

Davao lawmakers First District Representative Paolo "Pulong" Z. Duterte and Rep Ungab expressed strong opposition to the “people's initiative (PI) for Cha-cha”.

In a press statement on January 10, 2024, Ungab revealed that residents in his area were asked to sign "petition forms" related to amending the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

Duterte, in a separate statement, tagged fellow Dabawenyo lawmaker Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) Partylist Representative Margarita "Atty. Migs" Nograles as the person behind the PI in the city, calling it a “scheme by a few individuals to consolidate power rather than a true reflection of the people's will.”

He criticized the movement, expressing strong opposition to it.

"I am against this people's initiative as this is not the people's voice but the voice of a few who wanted to perpetuate themselves in power," Duterte wrote in the statement.

Nograles, however, has not yet issued a statement in response to Duterte's allegation.

The alleged signature campaign for a PI petition for Cha-cha was also reported in some parts of the country.

But why are some organizations or even lawmakers for that matter pushing for the Constitution's amendment?

PI is a common appellant in the Philippines that refers to either a mode for constitutional amendment provided by the 1987 Philippine Constitution or to the act of pushing an initiative (national or local) allowed by the Philippine Initiative and Referendum Act of 1987.

PI is a law-given right of the Filipino people — of directly initiating statutes or calling for referendums on both the national and the local government levels.

The other modes allowed by the Constitution involve a Constituent Assembly (or "Con-Ass") or a Constitutional Convention (or "Con-Con"), both of which also allow a total revision of the charter.

This had been lobbied since the time of the late President Fidel V. Ramos.

Former Davao City mayor and President Rodrigo Duterte, who had been an advocate of federalism, also failed to push this under his administration, saying that Filipinos are not yet ready for change.

Just like everything else, the Constitution needs to adapt to the changes in time.

Involving the people for its amendment is a sacred process of the country's democratic rights.

But for a government rotten by corruption throughout the years, how will the public be assured that reforms such as amendments won't be used as an opportunity for the few to advance their personal agenda?

How can we push for change among Filipinos if the system of "vote buying" is still being practiced up until now?”

If we want reforms, we must start among ourselves.

To those pushing for PI, we must educate the people, and not bribe them.


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